Whisky giant Diageo has been banned from using the name of an exclusive club for explorers as the name for one of its brands.
A US court ruled this week that the firm’s Johnnie Walker Explorer’s Club whisky did not have permission to use the name of the 110-year-old New York-based organisation, whose members have included famous adventurers such as Sir Ernest Shackleton and Buzz Aldrin.
Bottles of the whisky, a Scotch blend sold in duty-free stores, may now be pulled off the shelves after the Supreme Court of the State of New York granted the Explorers Club a permanent injunction against the brand.
The group, which is based in New York’s Upper East Side, successfully argued the drinks giant did not have permission to use its name and had profited from it.
It is though Diageo had hoped to reach a licensing agreement with the club.
Diageo, which was reported to have benefited from £30million in sales of the whisky, has said it would seek to postpone the injunction while it appeals the case.
Diageo launched its Explorers Club collection of whiskies in 2012. The most expensive, called the Royal Route, sells for around £95 a bottle.
The injunction was granted under a law which bars the unauthorised use of the name of a “benevolent, humane, or charitable organisation,” with intent to obtain a business advantage or benefit.
Alan Nichols, president of The Explorers Club, said: “Diageo could have approached the club about a mutually beneficial working relationship before deciding to launch a worldwide marketing campaign using the club’s name and reputation to sell its Johnnie Walker product.
“The club is an organisation with chapters all over the world that regularly carries on activities with responsible corporations that support the club’s non-profit mission.
“Diageo’s conduct directly threatens the reputation and goodwill the Explorers Club and its members have built over more than 100 years.
“We look forward to enforcing the injunction worldwide in the interests of justice and ending Diageo’s unauthorised misuse of the club’s name, our history, and renowned reputation.”
In a statement, Diageo said: “We are extremely disappointed and disagree with the decision.
“We are awaiting official receipt of the order and are planning to seek to stay the injunction while we immediately appeal this case.”